Updated: Jun 25
You have permission to rest and heal. Your life and health are so much more important than a sport season, although it may not feel that way right now.
I had a friend that firmly and lovingly told me (after probably the 19th time of me crying to her about not being able to run and wanting to quit recovery): “Well, long run you have the rest of your life to run and right now you need to focus on what’s happening right now. And right now you can focus on your health so that you don’t have to do this for the rest of your life.”
If you are in need of healing from disordered eating and your sport is interfering with your recovery, you have permission to take time off and heal. You have permission to heal whether you are first on your team or last, whether this is your first or last season, or anywhere in between. Your long term mental, emotional, and physical health are so much more important than a season, or two, or three, or however many it ends up being for you.
Personally, I had to stop running after my college sophomore cross country season, missing my junior and senior year seasons. Naturally I was devastated, but also relieved. It’s a strange feeling, relieved that I finally got a break but also feeling the compulsive need to get back. I’m not going to say it was easy, because it was challenging and painful, but it was exactly what I needed. I’m not sure where I would be now had I gone out for cross country my junior year, I really don’t want to imagine it because I have a feeling my eating disorder would have been much worse and would have lead to increased destruction of my mental and physical health because at that time, my mind and body were not ready to return to the sport.
So as I sit here writing this and reflecting back on that time, I’m glad that I didn’t run my junior or senior years. Taking the time off from cross country allowed me so many opportunities- diving deeper into my faith and joining a Christian organization on campus, making friends in other friend groups, joining an animal welfare club, getting involved at a humane society, being able to attend a program for treatment from my social anxiety/OCD, focus more on school, and allow my mind, body, and soul the time, rest, and healing I needed.
So if you are contemplating taking time off from your sport to heal, you have permission to do so. If you had a teammate rehabbing from an ACL tear and surgery (which takes months to recover from) or a teammate that had a severe fracture would you tell them to get back to the sport right now? Before they’re ready? Before they’re in a place that they can practice and compete again? No. You would tell them to take the time they need to rest and heal because although it may not be what they want, it is exactly what they need.
At the time I told myself all these horrible things about not completing my junior and senior year seasons. But if I had a friend in the same situation I would lovingly tell her that what she is doing is a sign of strength and not weakness, that taking time off from her sport is exactly what she needs in this moment in order to heal. That I am so so proud of her for prioritizing her health over a sport. That she is so much more than an athlete and is still so loved and valued and needed in this world, even if she never competes again.
You have permission to take time off of your sport to heal.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
Megan Ludke is a woman of God, Founder and Executive Director of Live RecoverED (formerly RecoverED Athletes), a school-based physical therapist, and a current PSU graduate student (M.Ed. Health Education & Promotion concentration in Eating Disorders). She is recovered from anorexia, orthorexia, depression, OCD, and social anxiety. Megan is deeply passionate about her work at Live RecoverED, having felt the pain and darkness of struggling with an eating disorder. When not working, Megan loves spending time with her boyfriend and family and loves being outside- hiking or reading in a hammock.